Malaysian mall group operator Sunway Malls is set to roll out its e-commerce platform Sunway eMall.com on Oct 27.
The e-commerce push is part of its strategic digitalisation efforts to complete its physical and digital mall presence, and comes at a time when online traction has gathered speed because of Covid-19.
Since the pandemic began, an estimated 70 million more people have switched to shopping online in six South-East Asian countries, including Malaysia, according to a report by Facebook and Bain and Company.
As reported on CNBC, the two American companies further projected that average online spending would grow 60% this year, from US$238 (RM990) per person in 2020 to US$381 (RM1,585) per digital consumer.
Online retail’s share of overall retail surged in South-East Asia from 5% in 2020 to 9% in 2021.
Over the next five years, the region’s e-commerce sales is also projected to keep pace, growing at 14% per year with online shoppers forecasted to reach 380 million by 2026.
Given the immense potential, Sunway Malls and Theme Park chief executive officer HC Chan said the e-commerce initiative was timely to grow the Malaysian mall group’s footprint to a larger market beyond its physical shopping centres’ catchment areas.
“The venture into digital place opens up new markets and possibilities for Sunway Malls.
“We are not time- and geographical-bound.
“Sunway eMall will complement our current combined 4.5 million sq ft of physical retail space of seven malls.
“It amalgamates our seven physical malls into one digital mall.
“Through this exercise, Sunway Malls’ portfolio has also grown to eight malls,” explained Chan.
An initial 200 merchants covering various trade categories such as fashion, home and living, beauty, health and wellness as well as food and beverage are on board with 30,000 stock keeping units (SKUs).
The list of participating merchants includes Sony, Huawei, Sketchers, Li Ning, Braun Buffel, Aldo, L’Occitane, Christy Ng and Hooga.
Sunway eMall projects to grow this to 500 merchants with 100,000 SKUs over the next 18 months.
The launch of its e-commerce platform will also enable the mall group to offer an offline-to-online-to-offline journey with the convergence of both online and offline shopping experiences.
“Additionally, what separates it from pure e-commerce players is the option for in-store collection apart from delivery, which is a further catalyst in driving more footfall into our malls,” said Chan.
The group also views the platform as an insurance and contingency against unforeseen geographical or retail sub-sectors lockdown.
“What we had witnessed over the past 20 months was the unpredictability of how such lockdowns could be, their suddenness and duration.
“For the record, the retail industry faced 153 days of closure in 2021 compared to 47 days of closure in 2020.
“Sunway eMall will allow retailers some form of business continuity if movement restrictions ever happen again,” Chan noted.
Meanwhile, he said the group’s physical shopping centres also showed signs of good recovery with the complete reopening of the retail sector.
“As of October 2021, preliminary indicators have shown 80% traffic normality compared to the same pre-pandemic period of 2019, with shoppers making a strong return to Sunway Malls in the beginning of the fourth quarter of this year.”
He said the number was expected to increase nearer to the year-end festivities.
Sunway Malls is optimistic that its recovery can be sustained as Malaysia prepares to move from pandemic to endemic with full compliance of safety protocols.